I Was Told My 16-Year-Old Son Would Die. Here's What I Learned From That Horrific Ordeal

Nutrition Specialist & New York Times best seller By JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
Nutrition Specialist & New York Times best seller
JJ Virgin is a certified nutrition specialist, board certified holistic nutritionist, certified exercise physiologist, and New York Times best-selling author.

My most life-altering event occurred in September 2012. Before it happened, I was feeling like I was on top of the world. I am a nutrition and fitness expert and was taping a PBS special, getting booked for major media, and my publishers had my book launch lined up.

When I returned home THAT fateful day, my then-16-year-old son Grant wasn't in the best mood (because his dad had told him he couldn't go to a class that night). He asked me if he could go, thinking I would cave. I didn’t, and Grant stormed out of the house.

That moment changed everything.

On a narrow, dark street, wearing black attire, my son never saw the car that struck him and drove away.

After Grant was airlifted to a hospital, doctors grimly informed me they couldn’t do anything for him. He was in a coma with bones sticking out of his body. One doctor grimly said, "You have to let him go.”

Anyone who has kids knows that letting them go isn’t an option. If you can fight for them in any capacity, you do. I was determined to prove those doctors wrong. In the intensive care unit, feeling completely powerless and out of control, I kept thinking to myself, I have to do something. I have to do something.

I knew I couldn’t navigate this alone. I reached out for help. I contacted all of my friends and colleagues, who happen to be among the best medical minds in the world. I also wrote a letter to my social media tribe: "Monday evening the unfathomable happened," the letter began. I wasn’t asking for sympathy. I wanted support. We talk about being "real" and "authentic,” but getting vulnerable is a whole different game.

Within minutes, I got the support I was looking for and advice from professionals. Grant survived surgery, but he remained in a coma. As I watched him that evening, I knew I would do whatever it took to make sure he got back to 100 percent.

Fast-forward: Grant not only survived but thrived. I don’t use this word lightly, but he’s a walking miracle. Although he had to literally learn to walk again, today he is physically active, healthy, and determined to help other brain-trauma victims. On the day that hit-and-run driver struck Grant, I had a choice: I could surrender to the doctors’ grim prognoses, or I could fight.

I took a chance and chose to fight. I confronted my worst fears with vulnerability and authenticity. Grant came out stronger. I came out stronger. Here are a few things I learned from this traumatic event:

1. Never give up, even when you’re suffering.

After you almost lose a child, you see things differently. Little things no longer feel like Herculean battles. You clearly discover why health and wellness truly matter. I had to remain my best self to be there for Grant. Not eating, sleeping, or taking care of myself in a crisis was NOT the way to go. How could I truly show up and fight for Grant if I was collapsing? You need optimal health to be completely present to serve those around you. It isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity.

2. It’s OK to feel vulnerable.

Through vulnerability, authenticity, community support, and the right mindset, you can conquer anything. Never forget you always have the opportunity to be the best version of yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because doing so allows others to live up to their full potential. It can feel scary to ask, but you will be amazed at the level of support when you do.

3. Challenges make us stronger.

Whether it's the struggle to lose weight or face a difficult health issue, I've never met an amazing person who hasn't gone through challenges. We are never better than when we are challenged.

The most amazing, inspirational people are those who went through hard times and came out stronger. They become more resilient, self-aware, and capable of serving others.

To rise up to those challenges, you need to be your healthiest. I couldn’t have gone through this situation without being in peak health. Ultimately I learned that self-care is crucial to serving others.

Have you transformed a difficult or seemingly insurmountable situation into a chance to become a better, more resilient person? I would love to read your story below.

Photo courtesy of the author

JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who helps clients lose weight fast...
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JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN
JJ Virgin, CNS, BCHN, is a celebrity nutrition and fitness expert who...
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